In about 15 years of using organizers (yes, I started early), I experimented quite a few solutions.
And now, the market is more diversified than ever, offering various types of organizers, agendas, planners, notebooks, all colours, shapes, types, sizes, filled with all possible templates for organizing mostly any life.
So, out of a large array of choices, what should you pick for 2011?
Whether you’re a work at home mom, or a student, or a corporate worker who gets too much small stuff to do, there’s one solution out there to fit you.
Here’s a quick test to help you choose.
1. Would you classify your work as long term based or short term based (many tasks to solve in less than 24 h)?
a. Long term based – Mark on your sheet F and H.
b. Short term based - Mark on your sheet F, M, and O.
2. Do you set aside 30 minutes a week to focus on the main tasks for next week?
a. Yes – Mark on your sheet F, and H.
b. No – Mark on your sheet M and O.
3. Do you set aside 30 minutes a day to write down and prioritize (ahead of time!) what needs to be done on that day?
a. Yes – Mark on your sheet F, H and M.
b. No – go to question 4.
4. Do you attend many meetings and appointments that you need to set time for?
a. Yes – Mark on your sheet F, H and M
b. No – Mark on your sheet O.
5. Do you need to keep track of outcome from meetings, and on top you get many to do items that need your attention, but don’t have the time to think through and plan? (yeah, I should have started with this question)
a. Yes – Mark on your sheet F and O
b. No – Mark on your sheet H and M.
6. Do you consistently track and write down other aspects in your life, such as birthdays, car checks, school plays, budget and spendings, grocery or calories intake?
a. Yes – Mark on your sheet F and H.
b. No – Mark on your sheet M and O.
7. Do you use your organizer more for ideas and notes, rather than for appointments?
a. Yes – Mark on your sheet O and H.
b. No – Mark on your sheet F and M.
9. Do you want to carry your organizer around or just use it at the office?
a. carry around – Mark on your sheet F, M and H.
b. use at the office - Mark on your sheet O.
10. Do you see your organizer as a life planning tool or as a reminder device?
a. Life planning tool – Mark on your sheet F (mostly) but can also be H
b. More a reminder device - Mark M and O.
And here’s the solution:
If you have a majority of F:
You like order in many aspects of your life, and you track, write down and assess pretty much everything.
Your best solution is the Franklin Covey planning system. It’s so well designed, it takes a really disciplined person to maintain it.
The Franklin Covey is great because it lets you do weekly, monthly and daily planning. It has a space to set your daily appointments, and another space for tasks that pop up during the day. It also provides the “A, B, C” task prioritization system. You also have a notes page on the right side for each day, for jotting down ideas or things to remember (I think that one page is too little, if you go into the “ideas writing” area, so I don’t consider this a strength for the FC planner).
This planner is also great for Project Management, Finances or Goal Setting.
However I found the pages rather crammed in my Compact size, and you need a larger version in order to be really able to use it properly.
If you’re a majority of H:
You’re organized but like to use your planner section by section. Your office life is neat and orderly, and you also like to keep reminders in your agenda. Your perfect planner is a Herlitz or similar (I use Filofax at the moment).
This is the perfect planner type to carry around with you. It’s easy to use, you can find this type of organizer in so many sizes, colours, with various filler forms and multiple sections.
What I like about it is the flexibility – you can use only the diary section and leave the rest filled with notes pages (you really can’t do that with a Franklin Covey, it would defeat the purpose of the whole planning system!).
You can create a section for grocery, another one for dream interpretation (like Gala Darling here) or even set out weekly menus.
Plus, on the Internet there’s now a bunch of sites dedicated to various uses of the Filofax. Here’s some I’ve been browsing through:
If you’re a majority of M:
Your work is focused more on daily than on weekly chunks, and you prefer to keep a degree of spontaneity. You use your planner 90% for appointments and sometimes for ideas that pop up. Your ideal tool is a daily agenda (week on two pages, or daily planner).
If you like the simple, classic look, I recommend the Moleskine (which you can get in Romania at Carturesti). Of course, if you don’t want to spend a dime, you can work with regular office organizers (the ones that companies tend to brand and distribute around this time of the year).
You use it for writing down appointments by hour on the daily sheet. Occasionally, you can use this page to also write down notes, or doodle ideas.
However, it’s not large enough for any other purpose than appointments/some to do tracking. If you have an extensive daily list of to do’s (such as a busy office worker with 20+ items on the sheet), this is NOT the tool to use.
If you’re a majority of O:
You need to write a lot, take a lot of notes, but you tend to use electronic planning more (Outlook, Lotus or even Google Calendar) for your appointments and meetings. Your life is crowded and busy, and you need to keep track of the many many things happening. Your best tool is an Office Book (i.e. a big A5 or A4 notebook that you carry around with you at work).
Here, we leave meeting scheduling and planning aside (that’s what you have your Blackberry and laptop for, right?) and focus instead on capturing the ideas, endless to do lists and countless conversations.
This tool can be the most flexible of all, or it can turn into a chaotic mess of pages stuffed inside, where you don’t much find anything.
The trick here is to split the notebook into more sections.
My favorite to use is the Semikolon notebook I’ve described here. It’s enormously thick (200 + pages) and lasted me about 1.5 years. It’s split into 3 sections, which I used for (a) to do lists; (b) meeting notes and (c) ideas.
This was a tool that worked perfectly for a while, its only drawback being that it was so big and heavy I could not take it home with me. You can find this type of tool or similar ones (in Bucharest) at Colour.
Good luck with your new planning system!